Sure, we’re getting ever closer to spring, but this is the week that the governor and state legislators have been dreading. An already-gloomy budget picture is expected to get even gloomier when a new economic forecast is released Tuesday.
“This is not a roller coaster we’re on,” House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, tells the Strib’s Patrcia Lopez. “It’s a corkscrew or one of those crazy upside-down rides where everybody gets sick.” When the report is released, the state’s deficit is expected to increase from $4.8 billion to something closer to $6 billion or $7 billion.
(By the way, I’m filling in on short notice today for David Brauer, who details his weekend medical adventures and unexpected in-person encounter with a Twitter compatriot here.)
The St. Paul Pioneer Press has two interesting reads on the state of the economy. Bill Salisbury has a perspective-filled question-and-answer session with state economist Tom Stinson, and reporter Tom Webb has an overview of the economy. Can Minnesota bounce back as it did following the deep recession of the early 1980s? There’s more hopeful news — the state is headquarters for 19 Fortune 500 companies, and it’s well-positioned on renewable energies — than bad.
While most of us spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the woes of the economy, 3,600 Liberians in the United States have far bigger issues to deal with than shrinking 401ks. The Strib’s Allie Shah reports the Liberians face being sent back to the chaos of their homeland by March 31 unless they are granted an extension by President Obama. In this recurring story, many of those Liberians live in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities and have developed deep roots in the community. Their hope is that Congress will create a path to citizenship if the president grants an 18-month extension on the deadline.
Here’s another variation of a story involving immigrants you’ve heard before: WCCO-TV reports that Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, is pushing a bill that would require Minnesotans to have driver’s license photos taken sans headwear. This would create state/religion issues for many Muslim women. “We follow our religion — what God told us to do,” says Suban Khalit of the headwear that she, and many other Muslim women, almost always wear. Perspective on Gottwalt’s bill? Similar legislation also is being considered in … Alabama.
Arrested for buying a bottle of wine? Hmmmm. Fargo family members of freelance journalist Roxana Saberis, who has been working in Iran, say they haven’t heard from their daughter since Feb. 10, when she told her parents she’d been detained for purchasing wine, according to KARE-TV. But this apparently is a reason that Iranian officials frequently give for detaining foreign journalists. Saberis’ father, Reza, says his daughter, a Concordia College grad, has been living in Iran for six years. She’s been working on a book about the culture and doing reports for such outlets as National Public Radio.
The old Catch-22 story is being updated in Minneapolis. James and Kristin Schoffman tell the Star Tribune’s Nicole Tommerdahl they bought an old house on Park Avenue with plans to raze it to create more parking, required by the city, for a nearby building they own. But when they went to get a permit to raze the house the city said, “No way.” It seems that at least one organization in the city believes the house is “potentially historic.” Why? Because Pauline Fjelde, who stitched Minnesota’s first state flag, once lived there. Understand, she didn’t stitch the flag in the house; she once lived in it. Now, the Schoffmans are stuck. They can’t sell the house. They can’t tear it down. But they can pay taxes on it.
Sometimes the good guys do win. Guy in Duluth steals car. He steals gas. He calls 911 and brags that police will never catch him ‘cuz he’s smarter than they are. He’s wrong.
Security gates at Lake Minnetonka? Perhaps they’re needed, according to a report by KSTP-TV’s Michelle Knoll. The goal would be to stop the march of zebra mussels into the hugely popular lake. All boats would have to go through inspection before being allowed onto Minnetonka and other popular metro bodies of water such as White Bear and Medicine lakes.
The sporting news is about as bright as the economic reports. The Twins are not invincible, losing their first spring training game, to Boston, 2-1. The University of Minnesota women’s basketball team was hammered by the University of Illinois. And, of course, the Minnesota Timberwolves lost.
But clear back in the sports section of the Strib, there’s good news: Both the Gophers’ men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams won conference championships on Sunday. The women, competing in Bloomington, Ind., won the title for the third consecutive year. The men competed in State College, Pa. It’s the first time since 1997 that men’s and women’s teams from the same school have won the title.